59 – Dresden, Aleppo and Gaza

War is a dirty business. Remember the firebombing of Dresden and other German cities during WW2. In four raids in February 1945, heavy bombers of the RAF and the USAAF bombed the city with high explosive bombs and incendiary devices. Some 25,000 German citizens were killed. Were the people of Dresden Nazis or just ordinary civilians? Today, we know that there can be no justification for such a high level of casualties. Dresden was a cultural city with no strategic significance but Allied Bombing Command believed otherwise.

We often complain in the West about indiscriminate bombing campaigns and never for a moment imagine how hypocritical this is. We blamed the Russians and Syrians when they bombed the city of Aleppo in 2016. The Syrian government was fighting opposition groups including the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front. The battle for Aleppo was called the “mother of all battles” or Syria’s Stalingrad. There was widespread violence against civilians with missiles targeting hospitals and schools. It is estimated that some 31,000 people lost their lives due to indiscriminate aerial strikes and shelling. Now the Russians are at it again bombing civilian targets in Ukraine.

The Israeli Defence Forces are shelling Gaza with hundreds of bombs and the casualty rate among civilians is horrendous. 10,000 people have been killed in a few short weeks including children according to news reports. This is how modern warfare is conducted today. When your soldiers spot an enemy force sneaking around a refugee camp, you immediately call in an aerial strike which wipes out the enemy but kills a large number of civilians at the same time. Russians, Americans, Syrians, etc. all operate the same way.

If you want to minimize the loss of soldiers on the ground, you use aerial strikes to soften up the enemy’s resolve to fight before you deploy your forces on the ground. The Americans have taken this to new limits. They use Predator MQ drones controlled by computer nerds in Arizona to destroy enemy forces around the world. They don’t care whether they take out an enemy combatant with his family and neighbours. And the Americans feel they are justified in killing their enemies anywhere on the planet.

The Middle East has been a killing ground for a long time. It is not just Israel and the Americans who have been killing Palestinians, but numerous Arab countries have been murdering them with unmatched ferocity. Remember there are three million Palestinians living in Jordan, half a million in Syria, 200,000 in Lebanon, and some 100,000 in Egypt. During the war in Syria, some 4,000 Palestinians were killed when Bashar al-Assad placed the Yarmouk refugee camp under siege for two years, depriving them of running water, electricity and food. The Lebanese were also guilty of abusing the Palestinians living in the Nahr al-bared camp where some 40,000 lived. They were trapped with no water, electricity and food. Rival political factions, Hamas and Fatah, battled for control of the Gaza strip back in 2005/6 and 600 Palestinians were slaughtered. Hamas gunned down their opponents, blew up their homes and tortured dozens of their victims.

There seems to be no way around it. The Gaza Strip is going to become a cemetery for a huge number of civilians over the next few months. The IDF will use aerial bombing to destroy as many Hamas gunmen as they can and a large number of civilians will die with them. The survivors and their children will soon be signing up to join Hamas and war will flare up again in a few short years. The only way for the Israeli government to overcome Hamas is to retake possession of Gaza and assume a governing role.

Back in 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip which they had occupied after seizing it from Egyptian control during the Six-Day War. They didn’t just withdraw their military, they also forcibly evacuated 9,000 Israeli settlers. They gave it to the Palestinian Authority who thanked them by vowing to continue waging war against the Jewish state. And one year later in 2006, Hamas was elected and so began the slow downfall of Gaza.

Forget the two-state solution for Gaza. That is never going to happen with the security situation. Israel has no choice. It would be foolish for them to think they can retire from Gaza after months of combat and not see Hamas re-emerge from the rubble. Israel is a rich country with a GDP similar to that of many European countries and its economy vastly dominates others in the Middle East. The Israeli government can afford to be very generous to the Palestinians living in Gaza after they wipe out Hamas. They have the means to rebuild the strip with new schools, hospitals and parks, and the future for many Palestinians living there could improve immensely.

Ruins of Aleppo

58 – The Bastinado: clean flagellation?

“I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel…” says Touchstone threatening William in As You Like it, Act V, Shakespeare.

“He was forthwith laid down on the deck, and had his arms turned and held behind him, one man sitting on his legs and another at his head; and in this posture, the captain with a great rope gave him a hundred blows.” A faithful account of the religion and manners of the Mahometans, Joseph Pitts, 1731

In my new novel, “White Slaves: 15 Years a Barbary Slave”, young Felix is punished by Captain Murad with a bastinado during a horrific voyage down the coast of France and Spain. The captain tries to force the young man to tell him the truth about the murder of a woman in the hold of his ship. A bastinado is a beating of the soles of the feet with a cane, a leather whip, or a flexible wooden bat. It was often favoured as a form of torture because, although extremely painful, it leaves few physical marks. The prisoner is immobilized by securing the feet in stocks, locking the legs into an elevated position, or hanging upside-down. The Persian term falaka or falanga referred to a wooden plank which was used to secure the feet prior to beating.

In Europe, foot whipping dates back to the early 16th century and has been used frequently in the 20th century: in Germany and in the occupied countries during WWII, in Greek, Spanish and Turkish prisons, in Palestine by the British, and in Algeria by the French. It was used in Brazil and in the American South against slaves where it was called “clean beating” compared to the harsher, more visually abhorrent forms of flagellation. The German term is bastonade from the Italian word bastonada (striking with a cudgel) or sohlenstreich (striking the soles of the feet). Up until the 1960s, it was used as punishment in juvenile institutions in Massachusetts and in Austria.

A lot of people today would find the bastinado barbaric, a relic of the Middle Ages along with the rack, the thumbscrews, the wheel, the pillory, and the burning of victims at the stake but, of course, modern minds have come up with a host of new ways to torture their victims. These include sexual assault, beatings, electric shocks, rape, sleep deprivation, mock executions and waterboarding. It is terrible to say this, but the torture of prisoners is more widespread than ever before in countries like Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Myanmar, China and North Korea. In many ways, we are no better than our ancestors during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries.

It is shocking that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, should be invited to the UK for an official visit after masterminding the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and dissident; that Xi Jinping of China is treated with respect at international events when we know about the crackdown on the 12 million Uyghurs in China: their indoctrination and internment, and the threats made against their families that occur every day; and that neighbouring countries are starting to normalize their relations with a war criminal like Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who forced a war on his people and will forever have blood on his hands. If you live in any of the countries above or in the refugee camps surrounding their borders, the world is just as dark today as it was back in the time of the Inquisition. We are no longer safe in the modern world. We cannot simply ignore the horrors going on around the globe and do nothing.

The attack on human rights around the world is far more important and dangerous to planet Earth than climate change, LGBTQ rights and woke lunacies that people obsess about. We may be facing World War III in the next few years and the democracies of the world need to stand together against those autocratic countries that abuse and torture their own citizens.


I stepped into my local library recently after two years of absence. I went in to renew my library card and to have a look around at the selection. I have been reading mostly the poor selection of books on Overdrive and buying other books that I wanted to read. It was almost a religious experience going into the library and seeing all those wonderful books I had been reading for the last twenty years in one place.

Many of you may have noticed that libraries across America have come under attack in recent weeks. A librarian in Wyoming of all places was recently sacked from her job because the local board didn’t like some of the books that were turning up on the shelves. Libraries are a reflection of our times. Librarians aren’t ‘book cops’ and have little or no control over the books that arrive on their shelves. What is morally unacceptable for one person is the holy grail for another!

My local library is neither the best nor the worst library in French Canada. The English language section is relegated to a relatively small space in the basement of the library in Quebec City where I live. The bibliothèque favours its mainly French language readers, but the English section still has a good collection of books. There are crime thrillers galore, psychological novels, biographies, historical fiction and what have you from dozens of authors that I like to read. Few, if any of these books, are to be found on Overdrive.

It is a wonderful feeling to just walk down the aisle of the library, reading off the names of your favourite authors. I have probably read at least half of the books on these shelves over a period of some 25 years! Reading has always been a favourite pastime of mine and has helped keep me sane. I would be bored stiff if I had to rely on Netflix or Amazon Prime for my daily dose of drama. So to see all ‘my books’ sitting on their shelves was a mind-blowing experience.

Wow! A new Ian Rankin, a Peter Robinson, a John Sandford, a Michael Connelly and the list goes on. Libraries are where kids get their first rush of emotion and experience life outside their own lives from reading J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis, Enid Blyton, J.M. Barrie, etc. It’s where storytelling takes centre stage for most people.

I remember my mother returning from the local library with her ‘escapist literature’ as she called it, three or four books every couple of weeks. She loved to read and was an inspiration to me when I decided to become an author and writer of screenplay. You probably remember the bookshelves of your youth: the no-nonsense librarians, the Dewey decimal classification on old index cards, the bookmobiles lumbering down the street inviting you to climb on board and the selection of dog-eared paperback novels laid out in the lobbies of family hotels during holidays. We all bear a nostalgic attachment to the libraries of our youth. Long live libraries wherever we find them!


I recently read David Grann’s hugely successful crime thriller (Killers of the Flower Moon) and enjoyed the read. Don’t get me wrong, I like his books. I’m an author and I love history, but I’m also a nitpicker like a lot of authors. Grann’s crime thriller appears under the cloak of non-fiction as it describes the horrific crimes committed against the Osage Indians of Oklahoma. Like any crime writer — Michael Connelly, John Sandford, etc. — Grann likes to embellish his story. Read the excerpt below:

“Mollie and Rita arrived and stepped close to the body. The stench was overwhelming. Vultures circled obscenely in the sky. It was hard for Mollie and Rita to discern if the face was Anna’s — there was virtually nothing left of it — but they recognized her Indian blanket and the clothes that Mollie had washed for her. Then Rita’s husband took a stick and pried open the mouth, and they could see Anna’s gold filling. “That is sure enough, Anna,” Bill said. Rita began to weep, and her husband led her away. Eventually, Mollie mouthed the word “yes” — it was Anna. Mollie was the one in the family who always maintained her composure, and she now retreated from the creek with Ernest, leaving behind the first hint of the darkness that threatened to destroy not only her family but her tribe.” (page 17).

Well, that’s a great scene for a film or a novel? No doubt about it. There’s a lot of detail there. You would have to be an eyewitness to the real event to record it in such detail. The only problem is that the discovery of Anna’s body happened a hundred years ago and Grann wasn’t born yet. There are numerous scenes like this in his book and they are all fictional, drawn from the writer’s imagination. Clearly, Grann is masquerading as a journalist and a non-fiction writer when he is actually writing historical fiction.

In the Cambridge University dictionary, non-fiction is defined as writing about real events and facts, rather than stories that have been invented. In a non-fiction work, you will find a bibliography including references to newspaper articles, biographies and other documents taken from archives which are used to tell the story. Non-fiction works are based on facts, not on invented stories. Authors, who write historical fiction, usually warn their readers in a note in the foreword indicating that parts of the novel have been invented. Grann includes all the trappings of a non-fiction work (historical notes and a copious bibliography) but then goes out and invents entire scenes that have no place in a work of non-fiction without the proper references.

What are those references? Writers of non-fiction will often credit the description to an eyewitness or mention that a plausible interpretation of events might read this way or that. They will use expressions like “Eyewitnesses at the time remarked that….”, “It was suggested at the time that…” or “What we are probably seeing is…” This is the way they introduce a description of events that they can’t possible have observed themselves, but Grann doesn’t observe any of the usual conventions when writing about past events. He is authoritative and commands your attention by mixing purely fictional elements with true events. So one might ask oneself, what part of his book is fiction and what part is based on true events?

Journalists and non-fiction writers benefit from the credible facts that they report. Readers assume that the events are true and give credence to their stories. Not so with a purely fictional account of events. When one cannot be sure whether the facts are real or invented, the writer instantly loses all credibility with readers. In the case of Grann’s bestselling work, the number of potential deaths seems exaggerated. The FBI estimated that there were twenty-four Osage murders, but Grann suggests a huge number of deaths, around 600 from 1907 to 1923, based on figures taken from the Authentic Osage Indian Roll book by Dennis McAuliffe. How many Osage died from consuming bad alcohol during the Prohibition years? I would expect not all of them were being poisoned by white racists hoping to inherit his or her headrights. Are we really to believe that a large proportion of the American public living in Oklahoma at the time were such terrible people that they wished the Osage wiped off the face of the earth because of their good fortune? I think the truth lies somewhere else.

Anna Brown, Osage Victim


Back in the 16th century ciphers were used by kings to communicate with their governors and ambassadors in distant countries. You may have seen in the news that it took the Loria Research Lab in France six months to crack a five-century-old secret code employed by Charles V. The letter written in 1547 by the emperor to his French ambassador revealed a French plot to kill the emperor. Charles V was the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. He presided over a vast empire that took in much of Western Europe and the Americas during a reign of more than 40 years. The letter had languished forgotten for centuries in a library in Nancy.

The Spanish ciphers used symbols to replace the letters of the alphabet and each letter was assigned two or three symbols. Some of the symbols looked like Latin alphabetic characters while others were more like arbitrary signs. The codes were very hard to decipher and sometimes took months to break. The anti-Habsburg Pope Paul IV created an office of Cipher Secretary in 1555 and the curia sometimes used forcible means to deliver the key to a cipher. In 1556, the Duke of Alva at the head of the Spanish-Habsburg army was sent to Italy by King Philip II to capture Milan and Naples, thereby threatening the power of the pope who was supported by King Henry II of France. The curia arrested the Spanish ambassador’s secretary and forced him through torture to reveal the key to the cipher which he used in writing to his king.

In our research on the Martin Frobisher documentary film, we came across another coded letter to King Philip II written by the Spanish Ambassador Bernardino de Mendoza in London in 1578. Dr Bernard Allaire of Laval University succeeded in breaking the code of the letter which had been lost in the Spanish archives for some 130 years. Mendoza was reporting to the king on Frobisher’s plans for a third voyage to Baffin Island to mine for ore on Kodlunarn Island. The ore was believed to contain a high level of gold but turned out to be totally worthless. The Spanish archives had been seized by Napoleon’s army in 1808 and were only returned to Spain in 1942 at a meeting between Franco and Petain in Marseilles.

See the excerpt from my documentary, Martin Frobisher and the Baffin Fraud (3 min.):


If you want to download or screen the entire documentary, go to:



After the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC, Plutarch wrote in his Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

A Pyrrhic victory is defined as a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. The term comes from a quote from Pyrrhus of Epirus, a Greek king and statesman, whose triumph against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum in 279 BC destroyed much of his forces and forced an end to his military campaign. Epirus was an ancient Greek kingdom located in northwestern Greece and southern Albania. During what came to be known as the Pyrrhic War, Pyrrhus fought Rome at the behest of Tarentum — a Greek colony in southern Italy — scoring costly victories at Heraclea and Asculum. He was trying to take over Sicily from Carthage but was driven out and lost all his gains in Italy after the Battle of Beneventum in 275 BC. In both Epirote victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties but they had a much larger pool of replacements, so the casualties had less impact on the Roman war effort than the losses of King Pyrrhus.

Is Bakhmut a victory or a defeat for the Russian invaders? News reports tell us that the Russians are losing five times more men than the Ukrainians at Bakhmut and US government estimates that the number of Russian casualties is above 200,000 men in the war so far. That is a lot of casualties: killed and wounded. In every war, the wounded are far more numerous than those killed. Common injuries include second and third-degree burns, broken bones, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, paralysis, loss of sight and hearing, loss of limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the case of the Ukrainian War with its trench-style warfare, shrapnel wounds are very common. Typically, the ratio of wounded to killed in war has historically hovered around the 3:1 mark, but the Russian convicts fighting with the Wagner Group have reversed the ratio with some 80% killed and 20% wounded.

Let’s say that the casualty rate for the Ukrainians across their front is 100 men each day, then the Russians would be losing over 500 men every day on average. This means that 75 Ukrainians would be wounded daily against 325 Russians. In a month, the Ukrainian wounded would number 2,250 while the Russian wounded would number 11,250. In a year, the numbers would climb to 27,000 Ukrainian wounded and 137,000 Russian wounded. That is a very big number of people to care for and the costs are high. A Canadian source estimates that it costs $20,000 to care for a wounded soldier at a field hospital who is subsequently returned to duty and some $42,000 for more serious wounds in an out-of-theatre regional hospital and subsequently returned to duty. The wounds in Ukraine are almost always serious, so the cost of treatment is going to be a very large expense and this amount obviously doesn’t include the rehabilitation costs for soldiers learning to walk with a missing limb, etc.  At the low end, the cost of treatment alone to the Ukrainian government might be around $11 million for the Ukrainians and $55 million for the Russians.

We know that the Ukrainian wounded are treated in 244 hospitals across the country while the Russians are shipped to hospitals in Belarus and back home. The Russians are trying to hide the cost of their limited military operation in Ukraine both in terms of material and casualties, but how can you hide 137,000 war wounded? The wounded will be everywhere. Every hospital in Russia will have hundreds of war-wounded.

Now with the Ukrainian offensive coming in the next few weeks, how can Russia continue its war effort with such a high toll on its soldiers? If the Ukrainian forces are able to crash through the Russian lines and attack from behind, it is highly likely that the ordinary Russian recruit will give up and abandon his weapon and the cause. There is no way that the Kremlin can force men to fight with this level of attrition. A major defeat of Russian forces is coming over the next few weeks and months.

Pyrrhic Victory of Confederates at Battle of Chancellorsville, US Civil War

53 – The Battle of Cannae

In recent weeks I have been musing over the terrible cost of the war in Ukraine. Just this last week the Ukrainians announced that they had killed 1,100 Russians in Bakhmut in the last few days. It is estimated that the Russians are losing 5 times more men than the Ukrainians and the number of their casualties is above 200,000 men with 60,000 killed. This got me thinking about the Great War and the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 when British casualty rates were 57,000 in one day with 19,000 killed. These are huge figures when you consider that British casualties at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 were 17,000 with 3,500 dead. Remember the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC during the Second Punic War. Almost 50,000 Romans were killed in one day!

War is a terrible thing. The Battle of Cannae was the worst defeat ever suffered by the Roman Republic. After the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca had crossed the Alps with his elephants and a large force of Spanish troops, Gauls, Libyans, Numidians, and Phoenicians, Hannibal went on a rampage defeating Rome in battle after battle. On August 2, 216 BC near the ancient village of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy, the Romans attacked Hannibal with a large force of 86,000 men under the command of the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is estimated by the Roman historian Livy that 48,000 Romans were killed that day and 19,000 captured against an inferior force of 50,000.

Military specialists love to talk about Cannae, because it represents the archetypal battle of annihilation. Hannibal deployed his forces in such a way as to draw in the Roman infantry and surround them massing his forces on their flanks and rear. He put his weakest forces in the middle of his line so as to produce a crescent-shaped formation and held back his stronger African force on the flanks. The battle began with a fierce cavalry engagement by his Numidian horsemen against the Roman horsemen. As the Roman heavy infantry attacked his weak centre, Hannibal started to retreat slowly, drawing in the Romans. The Romans were soon encircled by Hannibal’s stronger African infantry and were attacked in the rear by the Numidian horsemen. The Romans were in a pocket with no means of escape and the Carthaginians began to systematically massacre them.

Cannae is famous for Hannibal’s military tactics and their perfect execution. Military specialists call this a battle of annihilation. The American historian Will Durant called it “a supreme example of generalship, never bettered in history… and it set the lines of military tactics for 2,000 years”. Cannae has influenced Western generals for centuries. The Chief of the German General Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen, was so inspired by Hannibal as to develop “the Schlieffen Plan” during WWI based on Hannibal’s double envelopment maneuver. During the Gulf War in 1991, General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., commander of coalition forces, was inspired by Hannibal’s triumph at Cannae in the rapid and successful coalition operations during the conflict.


The recent attacks by Ukrainian drones on two Tu-95 bombers at the Engels Russian airfield, a fuel truck at the Dyagilevo airbase in Ryazin and an oil storage tank at the Kursk airfield have upped the ante in the war with Russia. Experts say the drones are most probably of Russian design — the Tu-141 reconnaissance drone, code-named “Strizh” — built in Kharkiv and brought back into production beginning in 2014. They are almost 15 metres in length and weigh 6 tonnes. Their range is 1,000 km and they can carry 75 kg of explosives. These drones help bring the war to Southern Russia, but they are relatively ineffective except as a tool of propaganda. The bombardment of power stations, transmission lines and water supplies across Ukraine by Russian forces is something quite different and is a disaster for Ukraine as it awaits the cold months of winter. The conflict today has become a stalemate and a war of attrition. Russian General Dvornikov, known as the ‘butcher of Aleppo’, is now leading the fight against Ukraine and clearly, the plan is to reduce the entire country to rubble and make it an uninhabitable wasteland.

If there is one thing that has been missing in this terrible war, it is the fact that the Russian people haven’t felt the misery of war like the Ukrainians. For Russians, it is Putin’s special military operation that is happening off in another country and has little direct effect on them. Why must the Ukrainians suffer and not the Russian public. If Ukraine could retaliate against Russian border cities like Belgorod and Rostov-on-Don, then perhaps there might be some hope of peace. These are Russian staging areas for supplies and troop movements, and would be a natural target for the Ukrainian bombs. Belgorod has a population of 369,000 people and is the administrative centre of the oblast. It is also a major rail link for troops and supplies coming south from Moscow. There were a few incidents back in April when two Ukrainian Mi-24 fighter jets attacked a fuel depot in the city, but nothing since. Rostov is a port city on the Don River with a population of over one million people, some 32 kilometres north of the Sea of Azov. By bringing the war to Southern Russia, Putin would have to confront increased opposition to the war within his own country.

While the citizens of Belgorod and Rostov benefit from all the modern conveniences and are looking forward to a lovely Christmas with lights and warm houses, the Ukrainians are huddled together around fires in dark basements. The Russians are not paying the price of the war as are the Ukrainians. Until they do, there will never be peace. The Russian invasion of Ukraine will not stop until there are no more bombs left in the Russian arsenal which is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The Russians have an inexhaustible supply of oil and gas, so only the lost lives of Russian soldiers and the protests by their mothers will have any effect on Putin and the Kremlin.

Since the beginning of the conflict, NATO and the US have imposed a ban on Ukraine targeting Russian cities and towns. They have basically clipped the wings of the Ukrainian military and made peace all the more difficult to achieve. Remember the Russian-Afghan war which went on for nine long years while the American Vietnam war went on for two decades before the Russians and the Americans respectively pulled out. The Russian war in Ukraine is similar in many respects. The war was lost before it even began. It was not fought on home soil, Russian or American. The public was mostly unaffected by the war effort until the bodies of soldiers started coming home.

The war in Ukraine has already lasted eight years and could go on for another decade or until a new leader emerges in Russia or the US and their European allies tire of it. The only way to shorten the conflict is to make Russia pay the ultimate price in war. The US and its allies must allow Ukraine to attack the cities of Southern Russia to hasten the end of the war.

Engels Russian Airbase


I have spent the last year doing a lot of historical research on slavery for my new novel “White Slaves” (390 pages) which will be published early next year. This has led me to believe that slavery is endemic to humankind just like prostitution. We have all heard about the transatlantic slave trade, which saw black Africans snatched from their homes and sold into slavery in the Americas. But slavery didn’t start there. It was with us in Greek and Roman times, in the horn of Africa, and is still active today.

In recent weeks the President of Ghana, Akufo-Addo, has demanded reparations from the European nations for the slave trade that damaged his country in the past. It is estimated there were some 10-12 million black African slaves who were victims of the transatlantic slave trade. The Ghanaian president said in his press release that the legacy of slavery has been “devastating” to the continent and the diaspora which tampered with “Africa’s economic, cultural and psychological progress”. This follows demands for reparations from various Caribbean nations (Grenada, Antigua, Barbuda and Jamaica) and, of course, those of Black and Native Americans.

George Floyd’s death in the US has pushed racial injustice and demands for reparations to the top of the agenda among Black Americans. The cost of reparations has been estimated to be between 10 and 12 trillion dollars, a huge amount when the total US debt is around 26 trillion dollars. Are slave reparations justified?

A lot of people think so, but it is highly unlikely the US government will ever agree to such a demand. The amount is way too high to be considered seriously by any government, and perhaps it is an impossible task even to imagine repairing the harm caused by slavery in the world. Let’s look at some historical facts about slavery.

When the ancient Britons were invaded by the Saxons in the 5th century, the Saxons would systematically kill all the male Britons they encountered and then enslave their women and children. Later in the 9th century, when the Saxons in their turn were invaded by the Danes, the Danes returned the favour, killing all the Saxon menfolk and enslaving their women and children. The Scots, the Welsh and the Irish all operated under the same reasoning. The best way to eliminate an enemy in those brutish times was to kill the men and enslave the women and children. Slaves were a hot commodity and could be turned into ready money in slave markets across the British Isles, Ireland, France, and Holland. Later in the 14th century, during the Hundred Years’ war between England and France, English soldiers plundered the French countryside in their chevauchées reducing the population to starvation and slavery. They would ride into a village and kill all the menfolk, before stealing anything that was not nailed down and raping the women, who were then forced into slavery with their children.

Later in the 16th century, whole villages in England, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain and even Iceland were depopulated by corsair slavers from the Barbary Coast. The corsairs would sail along the coast capturing men, women and children who were sold in the slave markets of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. It is estimated that there were over a million Christian slaves sold into slavery in North Africa. So it is not surprising that when the Portuguese and the Spanish discovered a market for African slaves in the West Indies, Brazil and the United States, the British and the Dutch were quick to take part.

We haven’t mentioned, of course, that slavery in Africa dates back to ancient Egypt. The trans-Saharan slave trade operated out of Ghana, Mali and Central Africa. The slaves were transported along trade routes across the Sahara to be sold in the Middle East and as far as the horn of Africa. Some 11-17 million slaves were removed from their homeland from the 7th to the 20th century. In the Americas, slavery was practiced by the Aztecs, the Mayans and the Incas, and

later by many Native American tribes such as the Iroquois, Commanche, Pawnee, Creek, Blackfoot, Haida and Tlingit. And, of course, we must not forget the Maori of New Zealand who are well known to have enslaved their enemies.

One can conclude from all this that the president of Ghana is being rather hypocritical in demanding reparations for Ghana when his own country was involved in slavery long before Western Europe showed any interest in Africa. Today, after our long history of slavery, the payment of any kind of reparation for slavery seems to be quite absurd. Should the ancient Britons have the right to demand reparations from the Saxons and the Danes and what about the white Christian slaves of North Africa? There is no limit to the number of people who would come out of the woodwork to demand reparations for slavery around the world.

The White Slave Trade of Africa


My original intention this week was to talk about the Domesday book and how William the Conqueror surveyed much of England and parts of Wales back to 1085. What an incredible document from Norman times and what a huge influence it had. Unfortunately, my attention this week got off track with the developing story about Kaliningrad.

In my April 9 blog, I mentioned that Kaliningrad and the Suwalki Gap were going to be the next theatre of war in Europe. I mentioned an attack before the US midterms in November. There are more and more reasons to believe this. The Russians are talking about a blockade of Kaliningrad by the Lithuanians who are simply applying the EU sanctions on Russia. They don’t allow certain items to travel through Lithuania by train to the Kaliningrad enclave. In addition, this week Putin announced that he is sending Iskander-M nuclear-capable missiles to his neighbour Belarus. Is this to threaten Ukraine or could it be a threat to Lithuania? Where is all this going to lead to?

Clearly, Putin and the Russian military are planning something. Will the blockade of Kaliningrad provide him with sufficient justification to attack Lithuania? The capital Vilnius is just 35 kilometres from the Russian border and 185 kilometres from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Russia with the help of Belarus can seize Lithuania in less than 48 hours by attacking Vilnius from the East and joining up with Russian soldiers in Kaliningrad in the West. Lithuania will be a walk in the park for Russian soldiers. They don’t have the military experience of the Ukrainians after eight years of war.

Who will stop the Russians? Nobody. NATO is an empty shell full of talking heads and no action. The last time NATO launched a significant military operation was the air bombing campaign in Kosovo/Serbia. They certainly don’t know how to coordinate multinational military forces in a WW2 style campaign. It’s all empty talk at NATO. Of course, no one in the EU believes war will actually happen. The only exception in Europe is Boris Johnson and the UK. Putin knows this. He knows that NATO is weak and so he will grab Lithuania whenever he wants and then go after Estonia and Latvia.

How will he do it? Remember those unidentified green men in Crimea. They were Russian Spetsnaz forces and they took the country without firing a shot. They seize territory and then claim it was all justified. It will be a fait accompli by the time NATO wakes up. Putin will say that Lithuanian Nazis are terrorizing the Russian-speaking population in Lithuania (5% of the population) and operating a blockade of Kaliningrad.

The time to strike for NATO is now before the Russians get their act together. Seize Kaliningrad and its port. Cut them off entirely from the land. Send in Polish or Lithuanian green men to seize the enclave and then pressure the Russians to leave their Baltic port. Putin would be totally enraged by such an action, but he would immediately understand that NATO was no longer a joke and would stop bullying his neighbours. Putin understands force, that’s all he understands.

Of course, it is highly unlikely that NATO will do anything since there is absolutely no will in Europe or in the US for a war with Russia. And the response of the immensely rich democracies of France and Germany will be to let Putin have those Baltic countries if war can be avoided. So Lithuania will become another casualty of Russian aggression and will be conveniently ignored.